Sep
16
2021
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The Org nabs $20M led by Tiger Global to expand its platform based on public organizational charts

LinkedIn normalized the idea of making people’s resume’s visible to anyone who wanted to look at them, and today a startup that’s hoping to do the same for companies and how they are organized and run is announcing some funding. The Org, which wants to build a global, publicly viewable database of company organizational charts — and then utilize that database as a platform to power a host of other services — has raised $20 million, money that it will be using to hire more people, add on more org charts and launch new features, with a recruitment toolkit being first on the list.

The Series B is led by Tiger Global, with previous backers Sequoia, Founders Fund and Balderton Capital also participating alongside new investors Thursday Ventures, Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen (a former Balderton partner), Neeraj Arora (formative early WhatsApp exec), investor Gavin Baker, and more. From what we understand, the investment values The Org at $100 million.

Founders Fund led the company’s last round, a Series A in February 2020, and the whole world of work has really changed a lot in the interim because of COVID-19: companies have become more distributed (a result of offices shutting down); the make-up of businesses has changed because of new demands; and many of us have had our sense of connection to our jobs tested in ways that we never thought it would.

All of that has had a massive impact on The Org, and has played into its theory of why org charts are useful, and most useful as a tool for transparency.

“In many ways the pandemic has forced us to reevaluate the norms of how work happens. One of the misconceptions was the idea that you are only working when you are at the office, 9-5. But the future of work is a hybrid set up but you get a lot of issues that arise out of that, communication being one of them. Now it’s much more important to create alignment, a sense of connection, and really feeling a sense of belonging in your company,” Christian Wylonis, the CEO who co-founded the company with Andreas Jarbøl, said in an interview (the two are pictured below). “We think that a lot of these issues are rooted around transparency and that is what The Org is about. Who is doing what, and why?”

Image Credits: The Org

He said that when the coronavirus suddenly ramped up into a global issue — and it really was sudden; our conversation in February 2020 had nothing whatsoever to do with it, yet it was only weeks later that everything shut down — it wasn’t obvious that The Org would have a place in the so-called “new normal.”

“We were as nervous as anyone else, but the idea of what work would look like and how we enable people around that has gotten a lot higher on the agenda,” he said. “The appetite for new tools has improved dramatically, and we can see that in our traffic.”

The Org has indeed seen some very impressive growth. The company now hosts some 130,000 public org charts, sees 30,000 daily visitors and has more than 120,000 registered users. And more casual usage has boomed, too. Wylonis notes that The Org now has close to 1 million visitors each month versus just 100,000 in February 2020, when it only had 16,000 org charts on its platform.

Monetization is coming slowly for the startup. Building, editing and officially “claiming” a profile on the platform are all still free, but in the meantime The Org is working on its platform play and using the database that it is building to power other services. Job hunting is the first area that it will tackle.

Posting jobs will be free, and it’s integrating with Greenhouse to feed information into its system, but recruiters and HR pros are given an option to manage the sourcing and screening process through The Org, a kind of executive recruitment tool, which will come at a charge. Down the line there are plans for more communications and HR tools, Wylonis said. Some of this will be built by way of integrations and APIs with other services, and some tools — such as communications features — will be built in-house, from the ground up.

When I covered the company’s last round, I’d noted that there were some obvious hurdles for The Org, as well as potentially others like Charthop or Visier building business models on providing more transparency and information around hiring and how companies are run.

Sometimes the companies in question don’t actually want to have more transparency. And any database that is based around self-reporting runs the risk of being only as good as the data that is put into it — meaning it may be incomplete, or simply wrong, or just presented to the contributors’ best advantage, not that of the company itself. (This is one of the issues with LinkedIn, too: Even with people’s resumes being public, it’s still very easy to lie about what you actually do, or have done.)

So far, the theory is that some of this will be resolved by way of who The Org is targeting and how it is growing. Today the company’s “sweet spot” is early-stage startups with about 50-200 employees, and generally org charts are created for these businesses in part by The Org itself, and then largely by way of wiki-style user-edited content (anyone with a company email can get involved).

The plan is both to continue working with those smaller startups as they scale up, but also target bigger and bigger businesses. These, however, can be trickier to snag — not least because they will stretch into the realm of public companies, but also because their charts will be more complicated to map and manage consistently. For that reason, The Org is also adding in more features around how companies can “claim” their profiles, including managing permissions for who can edit profiles.

This might mean more managed public profiles, but the idea is that it will be a start, and once more companies post more information, we will see more transparency overall, not unlike how LinkedIn evolved, Wylonis said.

The LinkedIn analogy is interesting for another reason. It seems a no-brainer that LinkedIn, which is at its heart a massive database of information about the world of professional work, and the people and companies involved in it, would have wanted to build its own version of org charts at some point. And yet it hasn’t.

Some of this might be down to how LinkedIn has fundamentally built and organised its own database and knowledge graph, but Wylonis believes it might also be a conceptual difference.

“We think that this might be the fundamental difference between us and them,” Wylonis said of LinkedIn. “They are a database of resumes. ‘I can say whatever I want.’ But for us, the atomic unit is the organization itself. That is an important distinction because it’s a one to many relationship. It can’t be only me editing my profile. And allows us to build structures.”

He added that this was one of the reasons that Keith Rabois — who was an early exec at LinkedIn — became an early investor in The Org: “LinkedIn has been looking at this forever, but they haven’t been able to build it, and so that is how we caught his attention.”

Sep
09
2021
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LinkedIn doubles down on development with new learning hub, free courses and new search fields for hybrid working

The wider world of employment has seen a huge shift in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking for a job, finding someone to fill a role or simply developing professionally are just not the same as they used to be for many of us. So it’s no surprise to see companies that have built business models catering to these areas changing, too: today, LinkedIn, Microsoft’s social networking platform for the working world, announced a wave of news aimed at moving ahead with the times.

It’s launching a new Learning Hub aimed at organizations to provide professional development and other training to employees. And it’s making 40 courses free of charge to LinkedIn members specifically to address some of the changes afoot, such as how to adapt to hybrid working, how to be a better manager in the new normal, and how to return to the office, and run facilities when they are spread beyond a building to also include people’s private homes. Lastly, it’s also starting to tweak details that people can use to list and search for job openings to account for these kinds of working conditions, and more.

The Learning Hub was first previewed back in April of this year and has been running in a limited beta. Today, as part of a bigger event hosted by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky where they are discussing new trends in the world of work, the Hub is being rolled out more widely.

For some context, LinkedIn has been long on education for years, with acquisitions like the remote learning platform Lynda back in 2015 bolstering its own education strategy and position as a go-to platform for professional development; partnerships to bring in significant amounts of third-party content (for example, when it added some 13,000 courses via third parties in 2018); and efforts to tie together the concept of skills development with professional profiles, running research and building interactive tools for its users.

The free courses that are being launched today (and will remain free until October 9) are a timely set of videos to help companies as some of them start to make (or think about) the transitions from remote to in-office environments, but the bigger product launch, The Learning Hub, is not exactly an altruistic endeavor in that longer journey. It is being sold as a premium service for businesses — existing LinkedIn Learning Pro users will be able to use it for free until July 2022, potentially longer, it said. In addition to being a salient business, it is also connected to the company’s bigger efforts to bring in more business-focused services, and more engagement from HR departments, to bolster one of its other main revenue drivers: recruitment.

As a learning experience platform (often described as LXPs), LinkedIn’s relaunch of its own learning hub will bring it into closer competition with the likes of 360Learning, Coursera for Business, Workday, Cornerstone, and the many other platforms used by organizations to manage their own in-house and third-party professional training content. In addition to this, LinkedIn says it will be using its own data on employment trends, plus AI, to personalize content for organizations and users. The fact, however, that it’s also a platform where those HR teams can also list jobs and source candidates makes it a significantly stickier experience, and one that might feel more cohesive at a time when so much else might be more fragmented.

The new fields that LinkedIn is bringing into its recruitment service are also notable in that regard. It will now let recruiters indicate whether a job is remote, hybrid or onsite; and soon those looking for jobs will also be able to indicate which of these it’s looking for in a new role. Companies will also be able to start indicating more details on their own company status as it relates to things like vaccination requirements, and to let the world (employees, partners, customers, interested others) know whether your physical offices are open for business or not.

These new fields may sound a little trivial, or at least very specifically related to concerns and circumstances that we live with today, but I think they are more notable than this. They speak to what LinkedIn sees (and what many of us feel) are strong priorities in how we view jobs today. That opens the door to how and if LinkedIn might consider other kinds of details in company and personal profiles, as well as details that could be used in recruitment. This is something the company has also been working on for a little while already: in June it started to give users the option of adding pronouns to their profiles. All of this is pretty important, considering that there are a lot of smaller companies and calls for someone to knock LinkedIn off its pedestal. As LinkedIn dabbles with new formats and sunsets others, it’s all signals that it’s attempting to be more adaptable to counteract that.

Sep
05
2021
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Spain’s Factorial raises $80M at a $530M valuation on the back of strong traction for its ‘Workday for SMBs’

Factorial, a startup out of Barcelona that has built a platform that lets SMBs run human resources functions with the same kind of tools that typically are used by much bigger companies, is today announcing some funding to bulk up its own position: the company has raised $80 million, funding that it will be using to expand its operations geographically — specifically deeper into Latin American markets — and to continue to augment its product with more features.

CEO Jordi Romero, who co-founded the startup with Pau Ramon and Bernat Farrero — said in an interview that Factorial has seen a huge boom of growth in the last 18 months and counts more than anything 75,000 customers across 65 countries, with the average size of each customer in the range of 100 employees, although they can be significantly (single-digit) smaller or potentially up to 1,000 (the “M” of SMB, or SME as it’s often called in Europe).

“We have a generous definition of SME,” Romero said of how the company first started with a target of 10-15 employees but is now working in the size bracket that it is. “But that is the limit. This is the segment that needs the most help. We see other competitors of ours are trying to move into SME and they are screwing up their product by making it too complex. SMEs want solutions that have as much data as possible in one single place. That is unique to the SME.” Customers can include smaller franchises of much larger organizations, too: KFC, Booking.com, and Whisbi are among those that fall into this category for Factorial.

Factorial offers a one-stop shop to manage hiring, onboarding, payroll management, time off, performance management, internal communications and more. Other services such as the actual process of payroll or sourcing candidates, it partners and integrates closely with more localized third parties.

The Series B is being led by Tiger Global, and past investors CRV, Creandum, Point Nine and K Fund also participating, at a valuation we understand from sources close to the deal to be around $530 million post-money. Factorial has raised $100 million to date, including a $16 million Series A round in early 2020, just ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic really taking hold of the world.

That timing turned out to be significant: Factorial, as you might expect of an HR startup, was shaped by Covid-19 in a pretty powerful way.

The pandemic, as we have seen, massively changed how — and where — many of us work. In the world of desk jobs, offices largely disappeared overnight, with people shifting to working at home in compliance with shelter-in-place orders to curb the spread of the virus, and then in many cases staying there even after those were lifted as companies grappled both with balancing the best (and least infectious) way forward and their own employees’ demands for safety and productivity. Front-line workers, meanwhile, faced a completely new set of challenges in doing their jobs, whether it was to minimize exposure to the coronavirus, or dealing with giant volumes of demand for their services. Across both, organizations were facing economics-based contractions, furloughs, and in other cases, hiring pushes, despite being office-less to carry all that out.

All of this had an impact on HR. People who needed to manage others, and those working for organizations, suddenly needed — and were willing to pay for — new kinds of tools to carry out their roles.

But it wasn’t always like this. In the early days, Romero said the company had to quickly adjust to what the market was doing.

“We target HR leaders and they are currently very distracted with furloughs and layoffs right now, so we turned around and focused on how we could provide the best value to them,” Romero said to me during the Series A back in early 2020. Then, Factorial made its product free to use and found new interest from businesses that had never used cloud-based services before but needed to get something quickly up and running to use while working from home (and that cloud migration turned out to be a much bigger trend played out across a number of sectors). Those turning to Factorial had previously kept all their records in local files or at best a “Dropbox folder, but nothing else,” Romero said.

It also provided tools specifically to address the most pressing needs HR people had at the time, such as guidance on how to implement furloughs and layoffs, best practices for communication policies and more. “We had to get creative,” Romero said.

But it wasn’t all simple. “We did suffer at the beginning,” Romero now says. “People were doing furloughs and [frankly] less attention was being paid to software purchasing. People were just surviving. Then gradually, people realized they needed to improve their systems in the cloud, to manage remote people better, and so on.” So after a couple of very slow months, things started to take off, he said.

Factorial’s rise is part of a much, longer-term bigger trend in which the enterprise technology world has at long last started to turn its attention to how to take the tools that originally were built for larger organizations, and right size them for smaller customers.

The metrics are completely different: large enterprises are harder to win as customers, but represent a giant payoff when they do sign up; smaller enterprises represent genuine scale since there are so many of them globally — 400 million, accounting for 95% of all firms worldwide. But so are the product demands, as Romero pointed out previously: SMBs also want powerful tools, but they need to work in a more efficient, and out-of-the-box way.

Factorial is not the only HR startup that has been honing in on this, of course. Among the wider field are PeopleHR, Workday, Infor, ADP, Zenefits, Gusto, IBM, Oracle, SAP and Rippling; and a very close competitor out of Europe, Germany’s Personio, raised $125 million on a $1.7 billion valuation earlier this year, speaking not just to the opportunity but the success it is seeing in it.

But the major fragmentation in the market, the fact that there are so many potential customers, and Factorial’s own rapid traction are three reasons why investors approached the startup, which was not proactively seeking funding when it decided to go ahead with this Series B.

“The HR software market opportunity is very large in Europe, and Factorial is incredibly well positioned to capitalize on it,” said John Curtius, Partner at Tiger Global, in a statement. “Our diligence found a product that delighted customers and a world-class team well-positioned to achieve Factorial’s potential.”

“It is now clear that labor markets around the world have shifted over the past 18 months,” added Reid Christian, general partner at CRV, which led its previous round, which had been CRV’s first investment in Spain. “This has strained employers who need to manage their HR processes and properly serve their employees. Factorial was always architected to support employers across geographies with their HR and payroll needs, and this has only accelerated the demand for their platform. We are excited to continue to support the company through this funding round and the next phase of growth for the business.”

Notably, Romero told me that the fundraising process really evolved between the two rounds, with the first needing him flying around the world to meet people, and the second happening over video links, while he was recovering himself from Covid-19. Given that it was not too long ago that the most ambitious startups in Europe were encouraged to relocate to the U.S. if they wanted to succeed, it seems that it’s not just the world of HR that is rapidly shifting in line with new global conditions.

Sep
01
2021
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Goodcall picks up $4M, Yelp partnership to answer merchant inbound calls

Even without staffing shortages, local merchants have difficulty answering calls while all hands are busy, and Goodcall wants to alleviate some of that burden from America’s 30 million small businesses.

Goodcall’s free cloud-based conversational platform leverages artificial intelligence to manage incoming phone calls and boost customer service for businesses of all sizes. Former Google executive Bob Summers left Google back in January, where he was working on Area 120 — an internal incubator program for experimental projects — to start Goodcall after recognizing the call problem, noting that in fact 60% of the calls that come into merchants go unanswered.

“It’s frustrating for you and for the person calling,” Summers told TechCrunch. “Every missed call is a lost opportunity.”

Goodcall announced its launch Wednesday with $4 million in seed funding led by strategic investors Neo, Foothill Ventures, Merus Capital, Xoogler Ventures, Verissimo Ventures and VSC Ventures, as well as angel investors including Harry Hurst, founder and co-CEO of Pipe.com, and Zillow co-founder Spencer Rascoff.

Goodcall mobile agent. Image Credits: Goodcall

Restaurants, shops and merchants can set up on Goodcall in a matter of minutes and even establish a local phone number to free up an owner’s mobile number from becoming the business’ main line. The service is initially deployed in English and the company has plans to operate in Spanish, French and Hindi by 2022.

Merchants can choose from six different assistant voices and monitor the call logs and what the calls were about. Goodcall can also capture consumer sentiment, Summers said.

The company offers three options, including its freemium service for solopreneurs and business owners, which includes up to 500 minutes per month of Goodcall services for a single phone line. Up to five additional locations and five staff members costs $19 per month for the Pro level, or the Premium level provides unlimited locations and staff for $49 per month.

During the company’s beta period, Goodcall was processing several thousands of calls per month. The new funding will be used to continue to offer the free service, hire engineers and continue product development.

In addition to the funding round, Goodcall is unveiling a partnership with Yelp to tap into its database of local businesses so that those owners and managers can easily deploy Goodcall. Yelp data shows that more than 500,000 businesses opened during the pandemic. The company pulls in from Yelp a merchant’s open hours, location, if they offer Wi-Fi and even their COVID policy.

“We are partnering with Yelp, which has the best data on small businesses, and other large distribution channels to get our product to market,” Summers said. “We are bringing technology into an industry that hasn’t innovated since the 1980s and democratizing conversational AI for small businesses that are the main driver of job creation, and we want to help them grow.”

 

Aug
26
2021
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Job offer management platform Compa emerges from stealth with $3.9M

If you haven’t noticed yet, the hiring market is a hot one — and getting more complicated as enterprise talent acquisition leaders face technology gaps while assessing candidates. This leads to difficulty in determining compensation.

Enter Compa. The offer management platform provides “deal desk” software for recruiters to more easily manage their compensation strategies to create and communicate offers that are easy to understand and are unbiased.

Charlie Franklin, co-founder and CEO of Compa, told TechCrunch it was frustrating to lose a candidate at the compensation stage, so the company created its software to reduce the challenge of relying on crowdsourcing data or surveys to compare pay.

“Recruiters often lack the data and tools to figure out how much to pay people and communicate that effectively,” Franklin told TechCrunch. “We see talent acquisitions teams like a sales team. If you think of it from that perspective, they need to close a candidate, but to ask the recruiter to operate off of a spreadsheet slows that process down.”

Compa co-founders, from left, Charlie Franklin, Joe Malandruccolo and Taylor Cone. Image Credits: Compa

With Compa, recruiters can input pay expectations and compare recent offers and collaborate with other team members and hiring managers to reach pay consensus quicker. The software automates all of the market intelligence in real time and provides insights about compensation across similar industries and organizations.

The company, based in both California and Massachusetts, emerged from stealth Thursday with $3.9 million in seed funding led by Base10 Partners. Participation in the round also came from Crosscut Ventures and Acadian Ventures, as well as a group of strategic angel investors including 2.12 Angels, Oyster HR CEO Tony Jamous and Scout RFP co-founders Stan Garber and Alex Yakubovich.

Jamison Hill, partner at Base10 Partners, said via email his firm was doing research in the ESG “megatrend,” particularly looking for startups focused on compensation management, when it came across Compa.

He was attracted to the founders’ “clarity and conviction” on the company’s vision, their understanding of the pay gap in the market, how Compa’s solution would “create a new wave of smarter, more-data driven recruiting teams” and how it was enabling employers to use compensation and a positive offer management approach to differentiate itself from competitors.

“They deeply understand the nuances that come with enterprise-level HR teams and bring that expertise to every aspect of Compa’s product offering, which is why we believe Compa can emerge as a leader in this trend and chose to partner with this very special team,” Hill added.

Franklin, who previously led human resources M&A at Workday, founded Compa last year with  Joe Malandruccolo, who was on the engineering side at Facebook and Oculus, and Taylor Cone, who has done innovation consulting for organizations like Stanford University.

The company was bootstrapped prior to going after the seed round and will use the capital to expand the team and create additional products that fit into its mission of “making compensation fair and competitive for everyone,” Franklin said.

Going forward, he adds that job offers and compensation need to catch up to how quickly the world is changing. As more people work remotely and companies want to attract a diverse workforce, compensation will be an important factor.

“This is a long-term trend we are seeing in HR — compensation becoming more transparent — not just a spreadsheet shared internally, but a transition from secretive to open and accountable, Franklin said. “Technology is catching up to that, and we have the ability to produce outcomes that drive differences in pay.”

 

Jul
29
2021
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Homebase raises $71M for a team management platform aimed at SMBs and their hourly workers

Small and medium enterprises have become a big opportunity in the world of B2B technology in the last several years, and today a startup that’s building tools aimed at helping them manage their teams of workers is announcing some funding that underscores the state of that market.

Homebase, which provides a platform that helps SMBs manage various services related to their hourly workforces, has closed $71 million in funding, a Series C that values the company between $500 million and $600 million, according to sources close to the startup.

The round has a number of big names in it that are as much a sign of how large VCs are valuing the SMB market right now as it is of the strategic interest of the individuals who are participating. GGV Capital is leading the round, with past backers Bain Capital Ventures, Baseline Ventures, Bedrock, Cowboy Ventures and Khosla Ventures also participating. Individuals include Focus Brands President Kat Cole; Jocelyn Mangan, a board member at Papa John’s and Chownow and former COO of Snag; former CFO of payroll and benefits company Gusto, Mike Dinsdale; Guild Education founder Rachel Carlson; star athletes Jrue and Lauren Holiday; and alright alright alright actor and famous everyman and future political candidate Matthew McConaughey.

Homebase has raised $108 million to date.

The funding is coming on the heels of strong growth for Homebase (which is not to be confused with the U.K./Irish home improvement chain of the same name, nor the YC-backed Vietnamese proptech startup).

The company now has some 100,000 small businesses, with 1 million employees in total, on its platform. Businesses use Homebase to manage all manner of activities related to workers that are paid hourly, including (most recently) payroll, as well as shift scheduling, timeclocks and timesheets, hiring and onboarding, communication and HR compliance.

John Waldmann, Homebase’s founder and CEO, said the funding will go toward both continuing to bring on more customers as well as expanding the list of services offered to them, which could include more features geared to frontline and service workers, as well as features for small businesses who might also have some “desk” workers who might still work hourly.

The common thread, Waldmann said, is not the exact nature of those jobs, but the fact that all of them, partly because of that hourly aspect, have been largely underserved by tech up to now.

“From the beginning, our mission was to help local businesses and their teams,” he said. Part of his inspiration came from people he knew: a childhood friend who owned an independent, expanding restaurant chain, and was going through the challenges of managing his teams there, carrying out most of his work on paper; and his sister, who worked in hospitality, which didn’t look all that different from his restaurant friend’s challenges. She had to call in to see when she was working, writing her hours in a notebook to make sure she got paid accurately. 

“There are a lot of tech companies focused on making work easier for folks that sit at computers or desks, but are building tools for these others,” Waldmann said. “In the world of work, the experience just looks different with technology.”

Homebase currently is focused on the North American market — there are some 5 million small businesses in the U.S. alone, and so there is a lot of opportunity there. The huge pressure that many have experienced in the last 16 months of COVID-19 living, leading some to shut down altogether, has also focused them on how to manage and carry out work much more efficiently and in a more organized way, ensuring you know where your staff is and that your staff knows what it should be doing at all times.

What will be interesting is to see what kinds of services Homebase adds to its platform over time: In a way, it’s a sign of how hourly wage workers are becoming a more sophisticated and salient aspect of the workforce, with their own unique demands. Payroll, which is now live in 27 states, also comes with pay advances, opening the door to other kinds of financial services for Homebase, for example.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of the American economy, with more than 60% of Americans employed by one of our 30 million small businesses. In a post-pandemic world, technology has never been more important to businesses of all sizes, including SMBs,” Jeff Richards, managing partner at GGV Capital and new Homebase board member, said in a statement. “The team at Homebase has worked tirelessly for years to bring technology to SMBs in a way that helps drive increased profitability, better hiring and growth. We’re thrilled to see Homebase playing such an important role in America’s small business recovery and thrilled to be part of the mission going forward.”

It’s interesting to see McConaughey involved in this round, given that he’s most recently made a turn toward politics, with plans to run for governor of Texas in 2022.

“Hardworking people who work in and run restaurants and local businesses are important to all of us,” he said in a statement. “They play an important role in giving our cities a sense of livelihood, identity and community. This is why I’ve invested in Homebase. Homebase brings small business operations into the modern age and helps folks across the country not only continue to work harder, but work smarter.”

Jul
20
2021
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SmartRecruiters raises $110M at a $1.5B valuation to expand its end-to-end recruitment platform

The global COVID-19 pandemic had a chilling effect on a number of industries and their workforces, resulting in mass furloughs and layoffs. But now, with countries taking steps back to “normal”, that has been leading, in many cases, back to a hiring surge. Today, SmartRecruiters, one of the companies that has built software to handle that process more smoothly, is announcing $110 million in funding to seize the moment.

The funding, a Series E, is coming in at a $1.5 billion valuation, the company confirmed. Silver Lake Waterman is leading this round, with previous backers Insight Partners and Mayfield Fund also participating.

The investment will be used in two areas. First, SmartRecruiters plans to continue expanding business — its primary customers are large enterprises, with Visa, Square, McDonald’s, Ubisoft, FireEye, Biogen, Equinox and Public Storage among them, and the plan will be to bring on more of these globally. Jerome Ternynck, SmartRecruiters’ CEO and founder, pointed out that one of its clients, Pilot Travel Centers, made a move recently in which it had to swiftly ramp up by 10,000 people in 90 days.

“That is the scale of the great rehire that we are aiming to serve,” he said.

And second, it plans to hire and invest more in product. Specifically, Ternynck said the company is looking to build more intelligence into its platform, so that it can help customers find ideal matches for roles and provide them with tools to automate and reduce the busy work of managing a recruitment process.

This is a notable area for growth, and one that smaller startups have also identified and are building to fix: Just yesterday, one of them, Dover, announced a Series A.

Ternynck likes to describe SmartRecruiters as “the Salesforce of recruiting”, by which he means that it provides a system of record for large enterprises that can manage 100% of the process of recruitment, from sourcing candidates to hiring.

“In recruiting tech, we are the mothership,” he said, with some 600 vendors integrated into its platform — a mark of how fragmented the wider industry really is.

(Salesforce, incidentally, is an investor in SmartRecruiters, and while right now it’s not directly working with its portfolio company to build recruitment into what it operates as essentially a massive CRM behemoth, it’s an interesting prospect and seems like a no-brainer that it might try to some day. Ternynck would not comment…)

There are already a lot of application tracking systems in the market that can handle the basics of logging candidates and managing their progress through the screening, interview, references and hiring/rejection cycle — Ternynck, in fact founded and sold one of the pioneers in that space. But the problem with these is that they are limited and often work within their own silos. He refers to these ATS systems as “the first generation” of recruitment software, a generation that is now getting replaced.

There are some big changes driving that evolution, and specifically SmartRecruiters’ growth. One key area is the bigger shift in “digital transformation”, precipitated by the pandemic but also a bigger shift to cloud-based computing and evolutions in big data management. Fragmentation is rife in recruiting, but we now are equipped in the world of IT with many, many ways of navigating that and using the wide amount of information out there to our advantage.

But there is another, more epistemological shift, too. Recruitment, and talent in general, has become a critical part of how a company conceives of its future success. Get the right people on board and you will grow. Fail to hire correctly and you will not, and you might even fail.

“This round and our progression signals the fact that CEOs have been forced to care more about recruiting,” he said. They want want to hire the best, he added, but that is fundamentally different from how recruiting has traditionally been approached, which is focused on cost per hire.

“This means recruiting is coming out of the administration function and into value add and sales and marketing,” he added. (That’s another interesting parallel with Dover, which has gone so far as to conceive of its recruitment approach as “orchestration”, a word more commonly associated with sales software.)

The pandemic has had an impact here, too: employees and “hires” today are not what they used to be. It has become more acceptable to work remotely, and what people have come to expect out of jobs, and what roles they are coming from when applying, are all so different, and that also demands a different kind of platform to engage with them.

Indeed, that bigger area — sometimes referred to as “the future of work” — is part of what attracted this investment.

“Hiring talent and building human capital is more complex and important than ever, and SmartRecruiters is well positioned to help companies attract and land top talent,” said Shawn O’Neill, managing director and group head, Silver Lake Waterman, in a statement. “Their scale and customer growth are testament to their strong leadership and industry leading platform. We are excited to help fuel SmartRecruiters’ next growth chapter.”

Interestingly, Ternynck noted that even despite the mass layoffs and furloughs experienced in some industries in the last year and a half, SmartRecruiters has seen business grow, even through some of the worst moments of COVID-19. Over the last 12 months, bookings have grown by 70%, he said. That’s a mark of how recruiting priorities are indeed changing, regardless of whether it’s a SmartRecruiters, or another kind of company entirely — and there are many, from Taleo and Cornerstone, through to smaller hopefuls like Dover, and even Salesforce — who might reap the spoils longer term.

Jul
19
2021
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Dover raises $20M to bring the concept of ‘orchestration’ to recruitment

Despite being one of the earliest adopters of using the world wide web to disrupt how its business is done and connect with more potential customers, the recruitment industry ironically remains one of the more fragmented and behind the times when it comes to using new, cloud-based services to work more efficiently. A new startup is hoping to change that, and it’s picked up some funding on strong, early signs of traction.

Dover, which has built what CEO and co-founder Max Kolysh describes as a “recruitment orchestration platform” — aimed at recruiters, it helps them juggle and aggregate multiple candidate pools to source suitable job candidates automatically, and then manage the process of outreach (including using tools to automatically re-write job descriptions, as well as to write recruitment and rejection letters) — has raised $20 million from an impressive list of investors.

Tiger Global led the Series A round, with Founders Fund, Abstract Ventures and Y Combinator also investing. Dover was part of YC’s Summer 2019 class (which debuted in August 2020), and Founders Fund led its seed round. Since leaving the incubator, it has picked up more than 100 customers, mostly from the world of tech, including ClearCo, Lattice, Samsara and others, even larger companies that you might have assumed would have their own in-house orchestration and automation platforms in place already.

“Orchestration” in the world of business IT is commonly used for software built for the fields of sales and marketing: In both of these, there is a lot of fragmentation and work involved in sourcing good leads to become potential customers, and so tech companies have built platforms both to source interesting contacts and handle some of the initial steps needed to reach out to them, and get them engaged.

That, it turns out, is a very apt way to think of the recruitment industry, too, not least because it also, to a degree, involves a company “selling” itself to candidates to get them interested.

“I would say recruiting is sales and marketing,” Kolysh said. “We’re comparable to sales ops, but sales is five-10 years ahead in terms of technology.”

Recruiters and hiring managers, especially those working in industries where talent is at a premium and therefore proactively hiring good people can be a challenge, are faced with a lot of busy work to find interesting candidates and engage them to consider open jobs, and subsequently handling the bigger process of screening, reaching out to them and potentially rejecting some while making offers to others.

This is mainly because the process of doing all of these is typically very fragmented: Not only are there different tools built to handle these different processes, but there is an almost endless list of sources today where people go to look for work, or get their names out there.

Dover’s approach is based on embracing that fragmentation and making it easier to handle. Using AI, it taps platforms like LinkedIn, Indeed and Triplebyte — a likely list, given its initial focus on tech — to source candidates that it believes are good fits for a particular opening at a company.

Dover does this with a mix of AI and understanding what a recruiter is looking for, plus any extra parameters if they have been set by the recruiter to carry this out (for example, diversity screening, if the employer would like to have a candidate pool that is in line with a company’s inclusion targets).

Dover also uses data science and AI to help calibrate a recruiter’s communications with would-be candidates, from the opening job description through to job offer or rejection letters. (Why dwell on rejection letters? Because these candidates are already in a short list, and so even if they didn’t get one particular job, they are likely good prospects for future roles.)

“No human wants to write 100 cold emails per week, but on the other hand, there are many people to hit up and connect with,” Kolysh said of the challenges that recruiters face. “When a company is seeing a lot of growth, it needs to scale fast. You just can’t do that without technology anymore.” Kolysh — who co-founded the company with Anvisha Pai (CTO) and George Carollo (COO) — said all three founders experienced that firsthand working at previous startups and trying to recruit while also building the other aspects of the business. (They are pictured above, along with founding engineer John Holliman.)

Given how much orchestration has caught on in the world of sales, there is a strong opportunity here for Dover to bring a similar approach to recruitment, based on what seems to be a very close understanding of the flawed recruitment process as it exists today. Whether that brings more competitors to the space — or more tools from some of the bigger players in, say, candidate sourcing — will be one factor to watch, as will how and if Dover manages to make the leap to other industries beyond tech.

But for now, its usefulness for a particular segment of the market is also what caught the eye of Tiger Global.

John Luttig, the partner who led the investment for Founders Fund, noted in an interview that most recruiting tools in the market today might best be described as point solutions, addressing scheduling or interviews, for example.

“It’s the full stack here that is appealing,” he told me. “And it’s automated, which is particularly valuable for early and mid-stage tech companies, to keep candidates from falling through the cracks. It also saves time from having to build up big recruiting departments. And because Dover owns all that work, those working in recruitment can instead focus on culture building, or assessing the candidates.”

Updated to note that Luttig is at Founders Fund, and to correct that the customer is ClearCo.

Jul
13
2021
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Remote raises $150M on a $1B+ valuation to manage payroll and more for organizations’ global workforces

For many of us, going to work these days no longer means going into a specific office like it used to; and today one of the startups that’s built a platform to help cater to that new, bigger world of employment — wherever talent might be — is announcing a major round of funding on the back of strong demand for its tools.

Remote, which provides tools to manage onboarding, payroll, benefits and other services for tech and other knowledge workers located in remote countries — be they contractors or full-time employees — has raised $150 million. Job van der Voort, the Dutch-based CEO and co-founder of New York-based Remote, confirmed in an interview that funding values Remote at over $1 billion.

Accel is leading this Series B, with participation also from previous investors Sequoia, Index Ventures, Two Sigma, General Catalyst and Day One Ventures.

The funding will be used in a couple of areas. First and foremost, it will go toward expanding its business to more markets. The startup has been built from the ground up in a fully integrated way, and in contrast to a number of others that it competes with in providing Employer of Record services, Remote fully owns all of its infrastructure. It now provides its HR services, as fully operational legal entities, for 50 countries (it has a target of growing that to 80 by the end of this year). The platform is also set to be enhanced with more tools around areas like benefits, equity incentive planning, visa and immigration support and employee relocation.

“We are doubling down on our approach,” van der Voort said. “We try to fully own the entire stack: entity, operations, experts in house, payroll, benefits and visa and immigration — all of the items that come up most often. We want to to build infrastructure products, foundational products because those have a higher level of quality and ultimately a lower price.”

In addition, Remote will be using the funding to continue building more tools and partnerships to integrate with other providers of services in what is a very fragmented human resources market. Two of these are being announced today to coincide with the funding news: Remote has launched a Global Employee API that HR platforms that focus on domestic payroll can integrate to provide their own international offering powered by Remote. HR platform Rippling (Parker Conrad’s latest act) is one of its first customers. And Remote is also getting cosier with other parts of the HR chain of services: applicant tracking system Greenhouse is now integrating with it to help with the onboarding process for new hires.

Indeed, $150 million at a $1 billion+ valuation is a very, very sizable Series B, even by today’s flush-market standards, but it comes after a bumper year for the company, and in particular since November last year when it raised a Series A of $35 million. In the last nine months, customer numbers have grown seven-fold, with users on the platform increasing 10 times. Most interestingly, perhaps, is that Remote’s revenues — its packages start at $149 per month but go up from there — have increased by a much bigger amount: 65x, the company said. That basically points to the fact that engagement from those users — how much they are leaning on Remote’s tech — has skyrocketed.

Although there are a lot of competitors in the same space as Remote — they include a number of more local players alongside a pretty big range of startups like Oyster (which announced $50 million in funding in June), Deel, which is now valued at $1.25 billionTuring; Papaya Global (now also valued at over $1 billion); and many more — the opportunity they are collectively tackling is a massive one that, if anything, appears to be growing.

Hiring internationally has always been a costly, time-consuming and organizationally challenged endeavor, so much so that many companies have opted not to do it at all, or to reserve it for very unique cases. That paradigm has drastically shifted in recent years, however.

Even before COVID-19 hit, there was a shortage of talent, resulting in a competitive struggle for good people, in companies’ home markets, which encouraged companies to look further afield when hiring. Then, once looking further afield, those employers had to give consideration to employing those people remotely — that is, letting them work from afar — because the process of relocating them had also become more expensive and harder to work through.

Then COVID-19 happened, and everyone, including people working in a company’s HQ, started to work remotely, changing the goalposts yet again on what is expected by workers, and what organizations are willing to consider when bringing on a new person, or managing someone it already knows, just from a much farther distance.

While a lot of that has played out in the idea of relocating to different cities in the same country — Miami and Austin getting a big wave of Silicon Valley “expats” being two examples of that — it seems just a short leap to consider that now that sourcing and managing is taking on a much more international slant. A lot of new hires, as well as existing employees who are possibly not from the U.S. to begin with, or simply want to see another part of the world, are now also a part of the mix. That is where companies like Remote are coming in and lowering the barriers to entry by making it as easy to hire and manage a person abroad as it is in your own city.

“Remote is at the center of a profound shift in the way that companies hire,” said Miles Clements, a partner at Accel, in a statement. “Their new Global Employee API opens up access to Remote’s robust global employment infrastructure and knowledge map, and will help any HR provider expand internationally at a speed impossible before. Remote’s future vision as a financial services provider will consolidate complicated processes into one trusted platform, and we’re excited to partner with the global leader in the quickly emerging category of remote work.”

And it’s interesting to see it now partnering with the likes of Rippling. It was a no-brainer that as the latter company matured and grew, it would have to consider how to handle the international component. Using an API from Remote is an example of how the model that has played out in communications (led by companies like Twilio and Sinch) and fintech (hello, Stripe) also has an analogue in HR, with Remote taking the charge on that.

And to be clear, for now Remote has no plans to build a product that it would sell directly to individuals.

“Individuals are reaching out to us, saying, ‘I found this job and can you help me and make sure I get paid?’ That’s been interesting,” van der Voort said. “We thought about [building a product for them] but we have so much to do with employers first.” One thing that’s heartening in Remote’s approach is that it wouldn’t want to provide this service unless it could completely follow through on it, which in the case of an individual would mean “vetting every major employer,” he said, which is too big a task for it right now.

In the meantime, Remote itself has walked the walk when it comes to remote working. Originally co-founded by two European transplants to San Francisco, the pair had firsthand experience of the paradoxical pains and opportunities of being in an organization that uses remote workforces.

Van der Voort had been the VP of product for GitLab, which he scaled from five to 450 employees working remotely (it’s now a customer of Remote’s); and before co-founding Remote, CTO Marcelo Lebre had been VP of engineering for Unbabel — another startup focused on reducing international barriers, this time between how companies and global customers communicate.

Today, not only is the CEO based out of Amsterdam in The Netherlands, with the CTO in Lisbon, Portugal, but New York-based Remote itself has grown to 220 from 50 employees, and this wider group has also been working remotely across 47 countries since November 2020.

“The world is looking very different today,” van der Voort said. “The biggest change for us has been the size of the organization. We’ve gone from 50 to more than 200 employees, and I haven’t met any of them! We have tried to follow our values of bringing opportunity everywhere so we hire everywhere as we solve that for our customers, too.”

Jul
09
2021
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3 analysts weigh in: What are Andy Jassy’s top priorities as Amazon’s new CEO?

It’s not easy following a larger-than-life founder and CEO of an iconic company, but that’s what former AWS CEO Andy Jassy faces this week as he takes over for Jeff Bezos, who moves into the executive chairman role. Jassy must deal with myriad challenges as he becomes the head honcho at the No. 2 company on the Fortune 500.

How he handles these challenges will define his tenure at the helm of the online retail giant. We asked several analysts to identify the top problems he will have to address in his new role.

Ensure a smooth transition

Handling that transition smoothly and showing investors and the rest of the world that it’s business as usual at Amazon is going to be a big priority for Jassy, said Robin Ody, an analyst at Canalys. He said it’s not unlike what Satya Nadella faced when he took over as CEO at Microsoft in 2014.

Handling the transition smoothly and showing investors and the rest of the world that it’s business as usual at Amazon is going to be a big priority for Jassy.

“The biggest task is that you’re following Jeff Bezos, so his overarching issue is going to be stability and continuity. … The eyes of the world are on that succession. So managing that I think is the overall issue and would be for anyone in the same position,” Ody said.

Forrester analyst Sucharita Kodali said Jassy’s biggest job is just to keep the revenue train rolling. “I think the biggest to-do is to just continue that momentum that the company has had for the last several years. He has to make sure that they don’t lose that. If he does that, I mean, he will win,” she said.

Maintain company growth

As an online retailer, the company has thrived during COVID, generating $386 billion in revenue in 2020, up more than $100 billion over the prior year. As Jassy takes over and things return to something closer to normal, will he be able to keep the revenue pedal to the metal?

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